The Hagia Sophia is a magnificent architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey, that was originally built as a Christian basilica nearly 1,500 years ago. Much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Parthenon in Athens, the Hagia Sophia is a long-enduring symbol of a cosmopolitan city. However, as notable as the structure is itself, its role in the history of Istanbul and, for that matter, the world is also significant and touches upon matters related to international politics, religion, art, and architecture.

The Hagia Sophia’s role in politics and religion remains a contentious and important one, even today some 100 years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. From 1935, nine years after the Republic of Turkey was established by Ataturk to 2020, the legendary structure was operated as a museum by the national government. Beginning in 2013, some Islamic religious leaders in the country sought to have the Hagia Sophia once again opened as a mosque. In July 2020, the Turkish Council of State and President Erdoğan reclassified it as a mosque.

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